The Three Day Interview
Companies pay our firm a lot of money to uncover, interview, and recruit the right talent for their companies.
So, it would make sense that hiring for our company would reflect the perfect storm of employees where there is minimal turnover, a refined onboarding process, and a group of happy, engaged employees.
Until about three years ago, this could not have been further from the truth – until I started implementing the same criteria for internal hires at Legacy Medsearch that I held for my clients.
Thus, I began using a “Three Day Interview” strategy. Since starting the three-day interview for full-time employees, we have had zero bad hires, no resignations, and no separations, all while nearly doubling our team.
Here’s how YOUR company can invest a little more time on the front end during the interview process to minimize the multiple layers of non-recoverable costs of a bad hire which include:
- Training, onboarding, and internal resource financial loss.
- Salary, benefits, and “hard costs” directly attributable to the employee.
- Potentially higher unemployment rates and insurance premiums.
- Morale issues for current employees – and redistribution of work once that person is separated.
- The cost of recruiting and hiring: advertising, travel costs for an interview, possible relocation costs, temporary housing, etc.
- Salaries and time of hiring manager and interview team during the process.
- Lost opportunity of “the right hire” that may have been a better fit.
- Loss of confidence of hiring manager or team – and the reticence to “pull the trigger” next time for a new hire.
Two questions I always ask my hiring managers before taking on a search assignment:
Are you quick to hire? Or slow to hire?
- My favorite answer: “I’m quick to hire once I have all the information I need – when I strike oil, I quit drilling.”
- My least favorite answer: “I like to see a large slate of candidates so I can pick the cream of the crop.”
Are you quick to fire? Or slow to fire?
- My favorite answer: “Quick to fire. When possible, I build in some redundancy in my team so I can move quickly to remove a person I see is becoming a weak link.”
Your immediate reaction to the title of this article may have been:
Who has the time to interview for 3 days – and what potential employee would take three days out of their life for a potential job?
But in actuality, the time commitment up front can either seal the relationship – or prevent a huge mistake on either side.
Here’s the mechanics of how it works.
Candidate is screened through the recruiter, HR, or hiring manager on the non-negotiable aspects of the job, including:
- Location / Relocation
- Education / Training / Certification
- General requirements, skills, abilities, experience
- Travel (don’t forget this one)
- Basic duties, reporting structure, working conditions
- Salary, bonus, overtime, etc.
“The Stop-By Meeting”
The qualified candidate has a short (emphasize – short) introductory meeting with hiring manager reviewing the position and general interest. In my office, this often means a 30- 60 minute “stop by” meeting with one of my recruiters in an informal setting where the candidate gets a feel for our environment, our people, and our culture. We generally try to schedule these introductory meetings before or after work hours or during lunch so that the candidate does not have to miss work at their current job.
The purpose of the “stop by” meeting is to gauge mutual interest. Keep in mind that this candidate has already been initially vetted for skill set and general interest so this quick meeting is intended to move an idea into action. I seldom meet the candidate on a stop by interview, except if I happen to wander out during their visit. I rely heavily on my staff to get a feel for a potential new hire, and without at least one “sponsor” within my organization, it is doubtful that the person would be hired.
At the end of the ‘stop by’ interview – assuming there is a positive initial interest – we give a brief assignment which is indicative of the “work product” the candidate would be involved in should they become an employee. For instance, if you are hiring a marketing person, you could ask the candidate to do a brief SWAT assessment of a business segment. If a clinical affairs professional, you could outline some recent situations for their 1-2 page review.
Be careful not to make the candidate, at this stage, feel as though they are doing unpaid consulting. I personally know the CEO of a successful medical device company who is a master of having high-level individuals “interview” for roles that didn’t really exist. He would quietly boast that he never had to pay consultants – because could get free advice by simply dragging on the “interview process” until he got the information he needed.
Suffice it to say that taking advantage of people is never the right course of action – before or after hiring – but being able to satisfy yourself that the prospective employee is capable and competent is certainly a reasonable request.
We never put a timeline on our “request for work product,” nor do we implicitly ask for follow-up (although we do send an “it was a pleasure meeting you” email). We’ve found that truly interested candidates generally respond within a day or two unless there are circumstances they make us aware of ahead of time.
As an employer of choice in our industry, we know we pay fairly and have a culture that is appealing to most. We want people to join us who are excited about working with us. Part of our company DNA is to be responsive. If someone sends an email telling us that they are not interested in moving forward – I totally respect that. If someone sends us an impressive work product example within a few days, that’s awesome.
But no response is bad form.
“The half or full day interview”
Note that day two could be 48 hours later- or a month later. The point is, I like to let some time go by to allow the prospective employee investigate our business, our industry, our people. As the hiring market continues to tighten up, “in-demand” people have more choices for employment and I’m sensitive to that. The day two interview generally includes the office version of a “ride-along” where the prospective employee sits with key members of our team, listens in on phone calls, and visits informally with us. At this point, I generally spend 30 minutes with the candidate and ascertain if there is a mutual interest.
On day two, the prospective employee usually spends two to three hours with us, including a lunch with one or two of my staff. I give specific
instructions to my staff to share the good the bad and the ugly about working with us – and encourage them to be forthcoming on the downsides of our company (long hours, crazy boss, deals that fall apart, disappointment). I also candidly share my strengths and weaknesses as the leader of our company.
“Is this a good fit?”
The final visit is conducted after continued mutual interest and input from each member of my team. We openly discuss a candidate – and if there is a strong objection by any current employee, I listen very carefully. The phrase I use is that everyone has a voice – even though my executive leadership and I have the only votes. To my recollection, we’ve never hired without 100% concurrence.
By now, we’ve conducted a thorough background check including education, criminal history, driving history and in some cases, credit history if this position warrants. I want to do my best to provide safe working conditions for all my employees. I conduct the reference interviews myself, along with using a service which does a full report for me to double check anything I may have missed.
The third day – we try to have the candidate in for our morning meetings and an additional few hours, including an hour with me. This last conversation with me is less of an interview and more about my trying to make sure this is this right move for the candidate. I’d much rather talk someone out of working with us if it would not be in their best interest. This session is part career counseling, and part “do we like each other enough to spend the next few years sharing the break room refrigerator.”
I generally present the compensation plan, commission structure, and the career path we offer (researcher, associate recruiter, recruiter, senior recruiter, account manager or business development manager, senior account manager, group director, partner). People are sometimes surprised when I tell them that titles here are based on performance, not on tenure. My goal is to have half of my employees reach partnership status within 5 years.
At the end of the three days, after the offer is presented, I ask the person to think about it overnight – and to discuss the decision with three people who are important to them: a spouse, parent, mentor, former boss, professor, etc
The final two questions I leave with my “almost employee” as they walk out of my office is this:
- If you take this position but are not employed here two years from now – what will the reason be?
- If you accept this role and ARE employed here two years from now, what will have kept you here?
Two nuances of the same questions. But I’ve learned that people who have been in the work-force any length of time know both answers before they start a job.
Funny thing is, I know the answer as well.
And if we both know – going in – where the rough spots and high points are going to be, we can make smart decisions along the way to drive productivity and results in a manner that provides job satisfaction and harmony for the entire company.
As a side note, if someone invests this much time in getting to know what the job really looks like, they – and we – generally make the right decision.
President, Legacy MedSearch